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A Timeline Of The Potential Trump Tower Project In Moscow


All right, so the new court filings you just heard about along with Michael Cohen's guilty plea reveal new information about what was happening behind the scenes in 2016 while President Trump was campaigning for president. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has this look at the timeline.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: When compared to the rest of the Republicans running for president in 2016, there was always something different about the way Donald Trump talked about Russia.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Putin said very nice things about me. And I say very nicely, wouldn't it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia?

I like him so far, I have to tell you. Let me just tell you.

I mean, if we got along with Russia, that would be sort of nice, wouldn't it?

KEITH: Then-candidate Trump said all of those things during a time when court filings now reveal Michael Cohen was actively pursuing a development project for Trump in Russia. In testimony to Congress last year, Cohen claimed the so-called Moscow Project fizzled out in January 2016, before the first votes were cast in the race for president.

He now admits that was a lie. Cohen continued Moscow Project-related discussions until at least the middle of June 2016 and, according to the filings, updated Trump and members of his family on his progress. That means that when Trump delivered this foreign policy address in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2016 with the Russian ambassador in the audience, he still had a potential business interest in Russia.


TRUMP: I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility, must end and ideally will end soon - good for both countries.

KEITH: That June, Cohen was even considering a trip to Russia to push for the project. On June 9, 2016, according to the filings, a Cohen business associate who was communicating with Russia emailed him trying to firm up the travel. If that date sounds familiar, that's because it's also the day of the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting where Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with Russians with the premise of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. The dirt wasn't forthcoming. But on June 14, this story broke.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The Democratic National Committee was hacked by two Russian intelligence agencies. The hackers are believed to have had access to DNC databases and communications.

KEITH: That very same day, Cohen met with his associate in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York and told him the trip to Russia was off. It's not clear whether that also marked the end of The Trump Organization's efforts to develop a building in Russia. But a month later, Trump insisted at a press conference that his business overtures to Russia were in the past, implying it was way in the past.


TRUMP: We wanted to - we were doing the Miss Universe four, five years ago in Russia. It was a tremendous success, very, very successful. And there were developers in Russia that wanted to put a lot of money into developments in Russia. And they wanted us to do it. But it never worked out.

KEITH: And at that same press conference, Trump called on Russia to find and release Hillary Clinton's deleted emails. Today, on the South Lawn of the White House with Marine One idling behind him, Trump said Cohen is lying now. And even if he is telling the truth about the timeline, Trump said it wouldn't matter because it's not like his desire to build in Russia was a secret, and he abandoned the idea anyway.


TRUMP: There would be nothing wrong if I did do it. I was running my business while I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn't have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business. And why should I lose lots of opportunities?

KEITH: Of course he did win. And today President Trump canceled a meeting he was supposed to have with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in Argentina. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Buenos Aires. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.